– Triathlete and Motivational Speaker –
“Don’t lean on your excuses”
Steven Judge was born in Hemel Hempstead in the UK. He was pretty average with maybe a slightly over average keenness on sport, and always participated and pushed to the best of his ability in all sports: from running, rugby, walking to cycling and generally kept himself very fit. Steve was also heavily involved in scouting when he was younger and believes that that is where his goal setting has come from.
Steve’s main passion was his running as he still loved racing against people and also the freedom of going ‘off road’ with no map or watch. He had taken part in The London Marathon, various Half Marathons and numerous 10K races. But in 2002, during a terrible car accident, Steven’s life gave a 360 degree turn when he was lying in a hospital bed listening to doctors tell him that although he was alive, he might lose his right leg and may not ever walk again. He then learned that “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s all gone…”
His life changed on April 26th, 2002. He was driving on his own, there was no one else on the road, and he wasn’t speeding. His wheels skidded on the wet road (outskirts of Sheffield), which sent him out of control and sideways, into a pole at 40mph. The car bent in half and his legs were crushed in the bend and he was stuck. Once the Fire Brigade arrived it took them one hour to cut him out of the wreckage and then ‘mercy dash’ him to the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield.
The damage to him resulted in a partial amputation of his right leg (Shattered tibia and fibular bone) below the knee and his left knee had been ripped apart with three out of the four ligaments broken. The hospital and surgeons worked on him to save his life and do what they could to save his legs but there was always a possibility that he may never walk again. His right leg had 100mm of bone removed due to damage and they connected his leg back together using a cylindrical fixator device (metal like cage with metal rods going through the bone) called a Ilizarov fixator.
Surgery was unavoidable, so he had an operation on his left knee to replace the broken ligaments with new ones, which turned out to be pig ligaments. Much as this surgery was successful due to his nerve being squashed or severed in the accident it has left him with no feeling in his leg below the knee and a ‘drop foot’ which means he can’t lift his left foot up. His knee is good but he does get pain and tingles within it at times. He knew at that time that his sports life had changed forever…
Steve had had to go through a long process of turning bolts every day for over 3 months to lengthen his leg and then extreme physio to use his leg to encourage the bone to grow back the 100mm distance. “it was extremely hard to put weight on your leg when you know that there is no bone in it…your brain is screaming out NO! But you know that this is what you have to do to achieve your goal…its very much a mind over matter…and dealing with the pain.”
16 months after the accident all fixators were removed, he had two legs that he could just about stand up on. During that time, he had been dedicated in his recovery through the entire physio that he had carried out to take him from a wheel chair to standing with a zimmer frame. The commitment and determination took him onto using crutches and on the purchase of a car with ‘hand controls;’ then he felt his independence was coming back again!
Steven never stopped fighting, and one day he drove out to a local park called Rother Valley where his new goal would be to walk around the two lakes to a total of 3miles. His first attempt was less than half a mile, extreme pain, exhaustion and tears due to disappointment. “Its not about WHAT life throws at you but how many TIMES life hits you and how many TIMES you get up…that is how winning is done”. Steve was not dissuade by his first attempt and he went twice a week to Rother Valley walking with his crutches, putting up with the pain and pushing himself even when his leg were bleeding from the movement round the pins, and his feet were bleeding from his toe nails digging onto his clawed toes. “My goal was to walk again and understandably I was passionate about it and so this is what I needed to do to achieve it.”
Every goal that he set, he achieved through pain and dedication going from using two crutches then using them in a Reciprocating gait movement (RGM), on to using just one crutch and then eventually no crutches at all.
The first stage of his recovery was coming to an end, as for the past two years he had been getting better and better. He felt that now he needed to accept the final result which ‘obviously’ wasn’t like it was before the accident. His right leg was a fragile, he had no real calf muscle, an extremely painful fixed ankle, and extremely limited movement in his foot. Things like running, which he had loved to do was now out of the question…forever. Now he had to work out how he was going to live with, and what he could and couldn’t do under this “limited” conditions, but Steven still was very optimistic by nature. “We all have obstacles in our lives some are fact are some are excuses. We have to make sure that we do not lean on our excuses, we have to make sure that we turn our excuses into challenges, that’s what I did. You have to try everything possible to get over those hurdles and through those barriers so that at the end you have no regrets. I was very conscious that I always stated that the accident that had put me in a wheelchair had not ruined my life but instead had changed my life. I very quickly learnt to think about what I could do rather than dwell on what I couldn’t do and this mentality is something that I have continued with in my life.”
Running was still out of the question, but swimming and cycling kept Judge active and helped him to set more goals. During 2004, his physio kept him fairly fit and walking, going to the gym and swimming pool as well. Steven still needed goals in his life. Steve says “If you need help to achieve your goals then ask for it” so in 2004 he started training and with the help of his friends, he participated in three relay triathlons where he completed the swimming part. His main objective was to be seen and treated as any other athlete, so he kept training during the next years, and never ever gave up on himself.
On Spring of 2009, Steven watch a triathlon competition on television which sparked off a hidden desire that he had always wanted to full fill in completing a triathlon even if it meant that he would walk round the running stage so as to finish the course. He had a feeling that there was a flat course event held locally at Rother Valley Country Park and looked on the Internet. Not only was a triathlon event being held but also something called a Paratriathlon was scheduled which was a triathlon event for disabled athletes. He got excited about it, and he was determined to become a paratriathlete… he will compete in a triathlon no matter what!
Steve went through many pain barriers introducing his legs to running again after seven years and found that once he had momentum he could run at a reasonable pace. “Running was taken away from me and now I have it back, it’s not how it used to be and it causes me incredible pain especially afterwards…but…I’m running. I don’t want to use the word ‘miracle’ too lightly but I struggle to explain how I am able to run with my injuries. Now when I run I look down at my legs and think…wow…I’m running…and I smile.”
As with any competitive person, and especially for someone who used to be a runner, it wasn’t long before Steven started to get back into the racer’s mindset. He looked through the results of the year before, and saw that he might have a chance of doing quite well in it.
Meeting all of the other power triathletes was amazing as these people had the same mind-set as mean as in they all had excuses that they were not leaning on and instead they had all turned their excuses into challenges and entered the sport of paratriathlon. Some had legs missing some had arms missing and some had visual impairment yet they will all here taking part in the paratriathlon it was at true inspiration meeting these people. In the race the swim and the bike went very well for me but the run I was most nervous about as to whether or not I could complete the distance of 5K. I knew I was being chased and gave it everything to cross the finish line in first place in my category and become the British Champion in my category.
This was just the start for Steve as he started setting goals and working towards them within paratriathlon.
As Steven became an elite level paratriathlete fitting in training became increasingly difficult with a full time job in the construction industry five days a week and a family with two children. “fitting in sufficient training was difficult but not impossible, if you want something to happen you will find a way. We all have time it’s how we cultivate that time as to what we achieve.” says Steven. “Early morning swim sessions and late night turbo training sessions became more common. Cycling to work and running at lunch time also made efficient use of my time.” Saturday mornings are the best as I cycle to Rother Valley then I swim in the lake with Sheffield Tri-club then I run round the lake and then cycle home all done before 10:30am ready to play with the family.”
Judge continued to set goals within paratriathlon and work towards them. “A goal is but a dream without a plan to achieve it” he states.” and my plan was to have no regrets when I was on that start line…no regrets in training, equipment, diet, health, fitness and state of mind.”
Over Steve’s career he achieved British Champion five consecutive years, European Champion, and World Champion two years running in 2011 and 2012. Steve Judge states. “It’s not all about the time, resources, opportunity… It’s about YOU. Your drive, your motivation, your commitment. Through my journey, my work, my family, competitions my life I’ve had many challenges both physically and mentally and now my philosophy that I use and share is ‘To be the best that you can be’ with ‘No regrets’ and this is how I lead my life now in ALL the things I do.”
Judge has also won the British Paratriathlete of the year two times at the prestigious British Triathlon Federation Awards ceremony. Winning the award is special as it is voted strictly by the triathletes themselves which means that it is not all about what he has won throughout the year but more about him as a person which makes him very proud. Steven loves triathlons, and he also loves the people involved within his training and has made a lot of new friends around the world. Sheffield triathlon club has been great support and a brilliant source of training advice and guidance for him and he continues to go to various sessions and events.
Steve has now retired from international competition but he continues with the nationals and the local races because he loves to have goals to keep him fit and also loves to compete. “Triathlon is important to me because when I run I have so much pain in my legs that afterwards the only activity I can do is swim and then maybe after that cycle and then the pain has subsided enough for me to run again. Triathlon is the perfect sport for my cross-training.
“I’m recently divorced and am looking forward to the future as a new era with my children. New challenges, new experiences and overall happiness with the family that we are.”
“My goal now is to share my story so as to inspire others and to motivate many so that the pain and suffering that I have encountered will not have been in vain. His business is called www.i.Nspire www.steve-judge.co.uk and he is an International inspirational and motivational speaker for events, presentations, workshops and guest speaker appearances. “We all have skills in our life and this is my skill: to present my journey with its messages so that others can be inspired. I really feel that this is my ‘calling’ in my life.”, Steve says.
Steve volunteers a lot of his time to the Scout Association as a Cub Scout leader. Scouting gives you the opportunity to try many activities and learn many new life skills. He achieved many goals in scouting with the badges that he was awarded and within scouting he achieved the pinnacle of achievement by receiving the Queen Scout award. For more information on the Scout Association in the Media Team supporting Volunteers in the North of England promoting Scouting for the Fun, Challenge and Adventure, please visit them at www.scouts.org.uk.
Steve in his own words
How does it feel to be an inspiration to others? Did you ever expect to become an inspiration?
To be an inspiration is a real honour and I do not take it lightly and I understand the responsibility that I have. I never set out on this journey to inspire others but now I am in a position to deliver that motivation and that inspiration then I will grab this opportunity with both hands. We all have skills in our life and this is my skill: to present my journey with its messages so that others can be inspired. I really feel that this is my ‘calling’ in my life.
Why are Triathlons so inspiring? What makes this sport so special around the world?
Triathlons are so inspiring because it is three sports in one which immediately seems more difficult than just doing one sport alone. Many People are always looking for the next challenge and triathlon offers that as an endurance event, it really has a WOW factor to it. Every triathlon is different all around the world there is no comparison from one event to another which means it is more about your individual performance rather than comparing to others. This encourages my message of “Be the best that you can be”.
When did you start participating in triathlons? Where was your first competition?
My first paratriathlon was at a place called Rother Valley in South Yorkshire which is very special to me as it is where I carried out my rehabilitation and learned to walk again. I never would have dreamt as I was struggling around on my crutches in immense pain that seven years later I would be completing a triathlon there. I regularly cycle to Rother valley to swim in the lake and run round the park and enjoy taking my kids there. My first paratriathlon was in actual fact the British championships and although my goal that year was ‘just’ to complete a triathlon…because I won my category and became British Champion I continued with sport.
What motivates you in life?
Recently I have been following my heart a lot more in my life. A comparison is like flying down hill on your bike…without any brakes! My motivation in my life is happiness and I know that many people say that this is a by-product but I see it as my goal. I’m seizing many opportunities as they are presented and enjoying the experiences that come with them. Experiences like learning Spanish so that I can share my messages over in Mexico where I have a huge following and working with the Duchess of Cambridge talking about disability in sport to younger members of Scouts.
What would you say to other people with similar ambitions?
It is very important that individuals set their own goals from their dreams. If it is their goal then there is a risk that they will not be passionate about it and you need that passion to work towards your goal as there will be many hurdles and barriers along the journey. Having a goal set to you by teacher, parents, coach, boss etc…do not necessarily work because you may not be passionate about the result. It has to be your goal. Please make sure that your goals are achievable as there is nothing worse than failure and so sometimes you need advice and guidance on setting your goals.
Who inspires you? Why?
The people that inspire me are the ones that turn their excuses into challenges. It’s not all about the time, resources, opportunity…it’s about you. Your drive, your motivation, your commitment. Many people inspire me my family, my friends, fellow paratriathletes, people who do not lean on their excuses. My father fought cancer for seven years and within that period he still achieved many things in his life but sadly eventually the cancer beat him. I inspire myself and can see myself as a third person (the voices inside my head…haha). I constantly ‘bench mark’ against myself, motivate and challenge myself to achieve in life and inspire myself on what I have already achieved knowing that my father will be watching down on me…and be proud.
How did you deal with obstacles in your life?
We all have obstacles in our lives some are fact are some are excuses. We have to make sure that we do not lean on our excuses, we have to make sure that we turn our excuses into challenges, that’s what I did. You have to try everything possible to get over those hurdles and through those barriers so that at the end you have no regrets. I was very conscious that I always stated that the accident that had put me in a wheelchair had not ruined my life but instead had changed my life. I very quickly learnt to think about what I could do rather than dwell on what I couldn’t do and this mentality is something that I have continued with.
What do you like most about Triathlons?
What I like about triathlon is the variety. Getting into triathlon for me was a natural progression from wheelchair to swimming and then cycling and then eventually running. Now triathlon is important to me because when I run I have so much pain in my legs that afterwards the only activity I can do is swim and then maybe after that cycle and then the pain has subsided enough for me to run again. Triathlon is the perfect sport for my cross- training. Triathlon is not an easy sport when you consider the equipment and transition parts…I like that, planning, preparing and practicing every aspect of the event. Again, I use this in all I do…preparing for a presentation or any event is like preparing for a race…I call it ‘Your Judgement Day’.
Mention major accomplishments in your life other than triathlons
Gaining my Queens Scout award in 1991. (The highest award possible in scouting). Successfully stretching and growing my leg back 100mm after the accident. My commitment through rehabilitation that enable me to stand and walk again. To complete a half marathon 12 years after I was told that I may never walk again. Recognition of becoming an international inspirational and motivational speaker following my conferences held in Mexico in 2014. I also have many achievements and will continue to have them through the eyes of my two children Robert and Susannah.
Do you support or represent any Non-Profit Organizations?
My organization is called i.Nspire and I am an international inspirational and motivational speaker for events, presentations, workshops and guest speaker appearances. I have recently returned from a very successful trip in Mexico delivering my messages to thousands and being treated like a celebrity with radio, TV and standing ovations. I even learnt to speak Spanish before I went out there to share my messages with the audience which was very well received. My presentation includes the messages: • You have a dream: that is your goal; work towards your goal • Be the BEST that YOU can be Don’t lean on your excuses • It’s not WHAT life throws at you but how many TIMES life hits you and how many TIMES you get up • Turn your excuses into challenges • It’s not always about the time, resources, and opportunity…it’s about YOU. Your drive, your motivation, your commitment • We all have time; it’s how we cultivate that time as to what we achieve • No regrets • A goal is but a dream without a plan to achieve it For more information, please visit www.steve-judge.co.uk